• Global coal picture encouraging mining companies to invest as demand pivots to Asia

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

An article in World Finance magazine has taken a long-view look at the global coal-firing industry, basing the article around an interview with Carlos Fernández Alvarez, Senior Coal Analyst at the International Energy Agency. While Western countries such as Ireland are divesting from fossil fuels, particularly coal, coal-mining companies such as Glencore are doubling down by investing further in coal assets, driven by confidence in the longer-term future of coal as a fuel. Asia is increasingly the nexus of the future – while back in 2000, the region accounted for half of global coal consumption, it now consumes three-quarters, and most of the future growth in consumption is expected occur in Asia. With coal being highly available and relatively easy to transport, as well as reliable and relatively cheap, as a fuel it continues to be attractive for many countries. Last year, global coal consumption increased by 1%, a small but noticeable rise that led coal-mining company Minergy’s CEO, Andre Bojé, to say that there has “never been a better time to invest in coal”. Thermal coal prices rose last year because the rise in demand was not coupled with an increase in production, which helps to explain the present investment strategies of the coal companies. The likelihood of a longish future of coal-firing in Asia and other non-Western regions of the world raises delicate and difficult environmental and ethical questions, particularly in light of the West having become rich through consumption of fossil fuels. Those questions might only be solved by the further development and implementation of cleaner means of firing coal, but regardless of those questions, coal’s global role seems relatively secure for the time being.